Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Merger of Pennsylvania Human Service Agencies Proposed by Governor

Governor Tom Wolf is proposing that four Pennsylvania agencies be consolidated into a new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The merger would involve the current Departments of Aging (PDA), Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Health (DOH), and Human Services (DHS).
According to a press release issued by the Governor’s office:
Seniors will also have a single agency as their point of contact within state government to receive health and human services. Instead of receiving prescription assistance from PACE through PDA, applying for an aging waiver through DHS while seeking home and community-based services from PDA, finding where to dispose of unwanted or expired prescription drugs through DDAP, or searching for information on the quality of nursing homes through DOH, seniors would find the services they need through the Department of Health and Human Services. Furthermore, the creation of this department will have no impact on how lottery fund monies are used to support senior programs…
The Wolf Administration is dedicated to continuing to provide the same quality services for seniors and individuals with disabilities and will dramatically improve the delivery of services like health screenings, programs to allow individuals to remain in their homes and communities, adult protective services, and home health care and housing supports, though [sic] the creation of this new department.
According to pennlive.com, Administration spokesperson Sarah Galbally told reporters that staffing cuts will be minimal. "It's not about service cuts," she said. Rather, she said the goal is to make agencies deliver service in a consumer-friendly way and "as much of a one-stop shop as possible for residents." While there is no concrete timetable, it is hoped that the consolidation would be completed in the 2017-18 year. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the administration wants to have legislation creating the new department passed by the end of June.
The consolidation proposal seems to be receiving a relatively positive bi-partisan initial response from both legislators and advocates. Personally, I fear we may face a period of confusion and disarray while the state works to merge highly disparate systems and personnel. But the current patchwork of agencies and programs is certainly discombobulated. In the long run consumers may be better served by one agency and the state may save some money.
The merger will require legislative approvals. More details should emerge during upcoming Senate and House Budget hearings.

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